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OWINGS MILLS — The towering, stationary kid with size-18 cleats is about to return to Baltimore. This time, Derek Anderson isnâ€™t a mere practice squad foil for the Baltimore Ravensâ€™ top-ranked defense.
Now, the 6-foot-6, 229-pound quarterback is poised to start for the Cleveland Browns against his old team Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium because starter Charlie Frye is questionable with a bone bruise on his right wrist.
Claimed off waivers by Browns general manager Phil Savage last year after the Ravens were forced to cut the sixth-round draft pick on Sept. 20 due to injuries at another position, Anderson made a lasting impression on his old teammates.
Besides his height, arm strength and a pair of touchdown passes to Randy Hymes to win a preseason game over the Washington Redskins in overtime last year, Anderson is remembered for being extremely slow afoot.
â€œYou could tell he was going to be a good quarterback,â€ linebacker Bart Scott said. â€œFeet like molasses, though, but he could throw a good ball and he was pretty smart.â€
Browns fans are encouraged and curious enough about Andersonâ€™s six quarters as a pocket passer that they want to see more of him.
The former Oregon State star has passed for 447 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for an 84.5 passer rating. He completed 21 of 37 throws for 276 yards, one touchdown and an interception in a 27-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week in his lone NFL start.
â€œA season and a career isnâ€™t two games,â€ Anderson said. â€œYouâ€™ve just got to go out every week and prove it for a while.â€
Anderson moved a step closer to starting his second consecutive game as Frye didnâ€™t throw any passes Thursday during the portion of practice open to the media.
â€œItâ€™s still sore,â€ Frye told Cleveland reporters. â€œItâ€™s tough to throw and if you canâ€™t throw, you canâ€™t play.â€
Frye, who was sacked seven times by the Ravens in their 15-14 win in Cleveland earlier this season, has a much different playing style than the statuesque Anderson, who gets the ball out of his hand rapidly with a quick release.
â€œThatâ€™s like oil and vinegar,â€ Scott said. â€œThey are really totally polar opposites. Youâ€™ve got one who is the Bledsoesque type of guy, and then youâ€™ve got the white Michael Vick out there.â€
On the day Anderson was going to rejoin the Ravensâ€™ practice squad, he was in general manager Ozzie Newsomeâ€™s office when he learned that Cleveland had signed him because of Savageâ€™s familiarity as the Ravensâ€™ former director of player personnel and penchant for signing discarded Baltimore draft picks.
â€œObviously, I was hoping that things were going to work out, but with Kyle Boller getting hurt and the way the situation worked out, it didnâ€™t work out,â€ Anderson said. â€œI just got to see the business aspect of the game a little too quick in my career. I enjoyed being there, but thatâ€™s the way it worked out.â€
Against the Chiefs, Anderson led the Browns on three scoring drives, including two touchdowns and the game-winning field goal from Phil Dawson. Despite his lack of mobility, Anderson wasnâ€™t sacked against Pittsburgh.
â€œThere is an element of surprise there because when you get a guy off the street you donâ€™t know exactly what you are getting,â€ Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. â€œWe did have a little knowledge because Phil had a background with him and knew of his abilities.
â€œI think heâ€™s done reasonably well in the game-and-a-half that weâ€™ve seen. I think heâ€™s shown that his preparation is good enough to go into a game and play.â€
Anderson led Oregon State to three bowl games, but was a late draft pick because of a 50.7 completion percentage and an interception percentage of one for every 26.6 passes.
â€œImmaturity,â€ Anderson said. â€œJust forcing balls in places I really had no business throwing to. At times, I tried to make plays that werenâ€™t there. A lot of times we were fighting from behind. We had the worst rushing offense in the whole country my senior year.â€
Anderson had immediate success in relief of Frye, completing 12 of 21 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns as he rallied the Browns from a two-touchdown deficit for a 31-28 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime.
However, this is a matchup with the NFL’s top-ranked defense that leads the league with 22 interceptions and ranks second with 46 sacks.
â€œHeâ€™s moved the ball well,â€ Ravens coach Brian Billick said. â€œAll the things we liked about Derek, youâ€™ve seen on film.â€
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland